Thank you, Mr. President. Let me begin by thanking Under-Secretary-General Le Roy for his briefing and expressing our gratitude to the personnel of UNAMID, who operate under very difficult circumstances. I’d also like to welcome his Excellency, Mr. Mikhail Margelov to the Council and thank him for his helpful comments today.
As other speakers have noted, UNAMID has faced serious challenges in implementing its mandate. But despite these difficulties, the mission has provided a stabilizing presence in Darfur.
I’d like to highlight four areas that we believe are critical to the mission’s success: outstanding deployment issues, prioritization with UNAMID’s mandate, support for the peace process, and the 2010 elections.
First, we’re pleased to see the increased efficiency in UNAMID’s deployment at large—progress that we attribute, in part, to the tripartite mechanism spearheaded by Under-Secretary-General Malcorra. We also acknowledge the increased cooperation provided by the Government of Sudan—cooperation upon which UNAMID’s deployment and operational ability depends.
But in this regard, we are troubled by the Government of Sudan’s continued failure to issue visas for UNAMID personnel in a timely fashion, as noted in the Secretary-General’s report. UNAMID’s success is predicated on having experienced staff on the ground. The pace at which visas are being granted—and the outright denial of some visas—indicates an unacceptable disregard for the UNAMID Status of Forces Agreement. The Government of Sudan must fulfill its obligations under this agreement and promptly clear the backlog of visas.
The Secretary-General notes that he expects all pledged UNAMID assets will be deployed by the end of this year. We welcome this progress. But we note that the assets that have been pledged constitute only 92 percent of UNAMID’s total authorized strength. Certain key assets—particularly critical air assets—have not been forthcoming from member states. Nonetheless, we believe we must start to focus on measuring UNAMID’s capacity to perform its mandate using the resources it has. We hope that in upcoming reports the Secretary-General will be able to report more on UNAMID’s operational effectiveness.
Second, Mr. President, we believe that the Council must provide guidance to help UNAMID improve its activities. The Secretary-General has noted that the two most important aspects of UNAMID’s mandate are protecting civilians and facilitating humanitarian access. We agree.
The situation for civilians in Darfur remains deeply troubling. We are particularly concerned by the level of sexual violence against women, and we ask the Secretary-General to work with UNAMID to develop a comprehensive strategy to protect women and girls from such gender-based violence.
No discussion of humanitarian relief can fail to mention the Government of Sudan’s March 4 expulsion of humanitarian organizations. Through the considerable efforts of the United Nations and the international community, the humanitarian crisis was averted. But the Council cannot afford to be complacent simply because disaster has been warded off through emergency measures. Sustainable delivery of humanitarian relief remains our goal. We must continue to monitor the situation closely, and we will look to UNAMID to maintain its role as facilitator for humanitarian access.
Third, we fully support the dedicated efforts of the Joint UN/AU Chief Mediator, Djibril Bassolé. My government’s Special Envoy, Scott Gration, will continue to work closely with the parties in support of the Chief Mediator’s efforts to obtain a cessation of hostilities and to push for a more inclusive peace process. But as long as the Governments of Sudan and Chad are engaged in active conflict, there can be no peace in Darfur—as underscored by such recent events as the bombings along the Chad-Sudan border. Chad and Sudan have the sovereign right to protect their territorial integrity, but continued tension and rhetoric between the two harms the peace process and undermines stability in the region. We encourage both countries to exercise restraint, to refrain from supporting each other’s rebel groups, and to work to pull these groups back from the brink.
Finally, let me touch on the issue of elections. Under the terms of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, elections are scheduled to take place in April 2010. The Council normally discusses this issue in the context of the UN Mission in Sudan, UNMIS, but elections are a national issue, and as such, must also be discussed when we talk about Darfur.
The extent to which Darfuris will be able to participate meaningfully in the voting is a real concern. We look forward to the UN Elections Assessment report and hope that it will contain information on the mechanisms necessary to help protect Darfuri participation. The Council cannot afford to neglect this issue.
Mr. President, UNAMID plays a valuable role. The United States supports the extension of UNAMID’s mandate for an additional twelve months. And we thank the delegation of the United Kingdom for preparing the draft resolution.
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